The Apple Watch review no one was waiting for

Now that I’ve ripped on Apple Music, let’s focus on another Apple product that I’ve recently begun interacting with. Yes, the Apple Watch.


That’s my orangutan arm, wearing my Apple Watch. It arrived last week. (The watch, that is. I’ve been stuck with the hairy arm all my life.) But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Well over a year ago, I joined much of the tech world in engaging in speculation over what we all were, at the time, calling the “iWatch”. (Yes, I correctly deduced that my conviction that Apple wasn’t working on a watch probably meant that they were.) And then, just 8 days shy of a year later, and half a year after Apple did announce their watch, I wrote up some thoughts on who I thought might be the target market for the ludicrously expensive Apple Watch Edition. Turns out I was wrong about where the Edition would be sold (it is, in fact, available at Apple Stores), but I still think I was pretty much on track with my theories about the Edition in general.

Of course, at that point I also mentioned that I wasn’t really in the market for the Apple Watch at all. Here’s what I said:

First off, I personally am not really in the market for an Apple Watch at all. I find it interesting, but a) I don’t really want to wear something on my wrist, and b) I’m not interested in this until the second or third iteration.

It’s true, I didn’t want to wear something on my wrist. I had worn a wristwatch on a daily basis for about 20 years, starting with a supremely geeky Casio calculator watch in the mid-1980s — which would seem to suggest I would be dying for an Apple Watch — but one day in the summer of 2002 I just decided, while heading to the beach on vacation, to take off my watch. I never put it back on.

I had grown accustomed to not wearing a watch, and I liked the feeling. Especially since I had already started carrying a cell phone around in my pocket everywhere I went, it seemed superfluous to strap something on my wrist just to tell the time.

As far as my second reason for not wanting an Apple Watch goes, I was convinced at the time that the first generation Apple Watch would be half-baked upon arrival. But as the reviews started coming in, I got the feeling that while I am sure it will get better over time, it’s actually pretty good already.

As the weeks went by post-release, the voice in the back of my mind started wearing me down, and eventually one day I just became convinced that I should go for it. (OK, honestly? It was a bit of an impulse purchase. Beer may have been involved.)

So it’s decided then… but which model to buy?

There was never any question for me that I would be getting the Apple Watch Sport. Aside from the fact that it is the least expensive model, and the only differences with the more expensive options are aesthetic, I actually like the brushed aluminum look best. As I said in my earlier post, I’m not into shiny metal. And I especially hate gold. (Honestly? I associate it with Donald Trump. In a bad way, if that needs to be said.) Not only that, but I actually like the look of the fluoroelastomer bands the best.

That left me with a couple of choices to consider: whether to buy the 38mm or 42mm size, and then which color band to get. I had the impression, not having worn one, that the larger size might be too big; after all, I don’t have exceptionally large arms or hands. But I checked Apple’s sizing guide and was quickly convinced that, yes, I did need the 42mm version, even though it’s $50 more.

OK. Simple. Color? Not so much. I didn’t really consider the pink or white bands, but the blue, green and black were all in the mix. I decided that I would probably want the black one, just because I don’t exactly want to scream to the world, LOOK AT THIS APPLE WATCH ON MY WRIST! And I felt like the blue or green one would do that.

Except… the model that ships with a black band has “space gray” anodized aluminum, and I just really didn’t like how it looked. My iPhone is “space gray” but I had seen the watches in the display case at an Apple Store, and the “space gray” on the watches is much darker. The one person I know who already owned an Apple Watch also confirmed that for me. I don’t like shiny, but I do like a brushed silver look, so I ended up going with the blue band, and then buying an extra black band. (Apple conveniently offers an option for a black band with the pin in silver instead of “space gray”, perfect for my watch.)

Tick tock, tick tock…

With my selection made and my order placed, it was time for the waiting game. The two items shipped separately, and the black band was actually in stock already, so it arrived almost two weeks before the watch itself. I took the band out of the box and held it up to my wrist, envisioning the watch that it would eventually be connected to.

Apple talks about how “soft” the fluoroelastomer is, and it’s true. I had encountered this kind of rubber before so I knew what to expect, but it really is nice. Considering that you’re paying almost 50 bucks for a couple of strips of rubber with a little bit of aluminum, it should be. And it is.

I checked Apple’s website several times a day for the next week or so, eagerly awaiting the progress of my order. And once it finally did ship, I switched over to the UPS website and watched its progress from Suzhou to Shanghai to Anchorage to Lexington and finally to Minneapolis. Yes! It’s coming!


I was on the phone with a client when the UPS delivery guy walked into the studio carrying a curiously shaped and startlingly heavy box. “You got an Apple Watch, huh?” he said. I suspect this was not the first one he had delivered, although I have yet to see anyone in person besides myself wearing one.

I don’t get into the whole “unboxing experience” the way some people do. The main thing for me is that it’s easy to open. Blister packs are the bane of my existence. Of course this is Apple so opening the Apple Watch box was an event. But it was easy and painless. No blister packs. I felt like the shiny white plastic case it came in was a bit unnecessary, but I can see why they did it. I wonder what the boxes for the stainless steel and Edition models are like. Maybe the box is gold too?

All right, already… do you love it?

You know… yeah, I do. The Apple Watch is a marvelous object. It’s meticulously crafted. It feels like something of quality. The user interface is extremely well designed, and it is serving my main objectives for owning it (which I will outline below) quite nicely. I am very happy to own it.

This device serves a much different purpose than Apple’s other products. It’s not intended to be the next in a line of high-tech toys that we stare at incessantly for hours. Try holding your wrist up and looking at it for more than a few moments and you’ll understand why Dick Tracy isn’t real.

The Apple Watch is… a watch. It’s the watch reimagined, extended. But it still, in spirit, is a watch.

I see the watch as serving three primary roles for me. First, the traditional role of a watch: telling the time, and the day/date while we’re at it, and, being the natural successor to the digital watches of my youth, also offering an alarm, a stopwatch, and a timer. It does all of these watch-like things stunningly well, with the kind of user interface that makes you cringe to think of strapping on a Casio and trying to make sense of those four side buttons. This is Apple doing what it does best: reimagining something we all use and making it better than anyone thought possible.

Second, and really this was the motivating factor for me to get the Apple Watch: fitness tracking. I’ve been running for four years now, and it’s become a big part of my life. I’ve gotten to the point where I generally prefer not to have music while I’m running — mostly because of the annoying tug of earbud cables. I also would really like to not have to carry my iPhone in my pocket, because its weight is another annoyance. (That said, I’ve been inclined to carry my phone with me whenever I run since one time last year — one of the few times I did not have my phone along — when I witnessed a biker crash on the trail in front of me, hard enough to be bloodied and knocked unconscious. Another passerby and I managed to flag down a car whose driver had a phone with him, and we got help for the biker, but if I’d had my phone along the ambulance could have arrived much sooner.)

The Apple Watch works great as a fitness tracker. Granted, I have not used a Fitbit or any other single-function fitness tracking device, but I hate single-function devices, so I love that this capability is built into such a multipurpose object as the Apple Watch. The Apple Watch automatically calibrates using the GPS in your iPhone, so you just need to run for at least 20 minutes with the iPhone initially to let it adjust to your running style. Yesterday I ran without my phone on a route I knew from past experience is exactly 5K (3.1 miles), and the Apple Watch was nearly perfect in measuring the distance.

In addition to workouts, the Apple Watch has configurable tracking that measures your daily activity by three factors: movement (calories burned), exercise (in minutes), and standing — making sure you stand up and move around for at least one minute every hour. It was this feature, and the impact it had on Apple blogger Jim Dalrymple, that really convinced me to check out the Apple Watch in the first place.

I’m already pretty fit from the running, but Activity is still a nice way to make sure I keep moving even on my “rest” days, and especially encouraging me to stand and move around more, because when I’m working I often fall into the habit of sitting at my desk for hours at a time without getting up. (I’ve switched to a standing desk, but I still have a stool that I often rely on when I’m feeling lazy.)

The third thing I was hoping to get from the Apple Watch, and it’s even something Apple promotes about it, is that I would spend less time with my face buried in my iPhone. How does the watch help with this? By providing quick, at-a-glance notifications. The kinds of things that, with a ding and a vibration, have over the past several years been my signal to pull my iPhone from my pocket to review an incoming email… and then check Twitter… and Instagram… and Facebook… and maybe — oh, hang on. My Apple Watch just tapped me on the wrist to remind me to stand up. Have I really been sitting here writing this for so long? BRB.

Ahh… feels good to stretch the legs. Now where was I?

Oh yeah… my iPhone, that constant digital companion, is probably my favorite thing I own, and it shows. Because I spend so much time looking at it. A week into owning my Apple Watch, although I haven’t quantified it, I’m pretty sure I take my iPhone out of my pocket a lot less often now. And I feel liberated from having to answer every incoming message the instant I see it.

So, five out of five stars, then?

I do think I love the Apple Watch. It has taken its place alongside the other Apple devices I use so often. And I pretty much own them all. Mac, iPhone, iPad, I even have an iPod nano that I still use from time to time. My iPhone is definitely my favorite. I’d put the Watch between the Mac and the iPad at this point.

IMG_5164That said, I don’t think it’s absolutely perfect I do wish there were a few more options for the watch face. I’ve tried several of them, and found, in most cases, that they don’t offer as many complications as I’d like, or that the complications are too limited in what they can display. I ended up settling on the “Modular” face, mostly because it is the one that offers the highest information density, and because YES I CAN READ AN ANALOG CLOCK FACE, THANK YOU (and I can still write in cursive too, if I have to) but at a quick glance I prefer a digital display of the time.

The options for complications are a little lacking. What is it with Apple and stocks, for example? iOS and now watchOS just can’t get enough of stocks. I actually am using the Stocks glance now though, since I recently started a Roth IRA. But so far it’s just been a depressing reminder that some money that I’m not going to be able to touch for 30 years is worth a little less now than it was last week. So, who really cares?

I’m also not an astronomer, so while I think the moon phase feature is mildly interesting, it’s not something I need to be able to see at a glance. I really wish you could have the option to make some of the type smaller, since the calendar complication can barely show three words in identifying your next upcoming event.

IMG_5154So my “Modular” face is loaded up with the day/date, weather (in the largest complication to show more info), the sunrise/sunset, activity status, and alarm. I really wish I could fit in one more complication, so I could see the battery level, but in practice that has ended up not being an issue for me at all. I think on my day of heaviest use, the watch still had 15% of its charge at bedtime, and most days it’s still over 30%.

I’m encouraged by the imminent release of watchOS 2.0, and the features it promises, most notably the ability for third-party apps to run directly on the watch. I’ve already decided I do not want to play games on it (I’ve tried a few), and I also am glad there’s no web browser (let’s hope it stays that way), but I do like the potential I see in some of the third-party apps like MLB At Bat, and I’d like to see what else they might be able to do once they’re not using the watch screen as essentially a “dumb terminal” getting data fed to it from the iPhone.

Is that all?

I’ve focused here on the things about the Apple Watch that matter to me. There are several things it can do that I haven’t used (World Clock) or can’t use, at least not yet (anything that involves Apple Watch-to-Apple Watch communication). I’ve sent text messages to my family using the watch, and I’m impressed. The dictation feature shows a marked improvement over the last time I tried to use Siri for that purpose with my iPhone. Even in a noisy environment it seems to work really well.

And I finally got to use Apple Pay with the watch, since my iPhone 5s doesn’t support it directly. I paid for some groceries at Cub Foods the other day, and it was flawless… just double-tapped the bottom button, held my watch up to the reader, and felt the “tap” on my wrist. Done! Well… not quite. Unfortunately, store policy, the cashier then asked to see my ID and credit card, which I had to dig out of my pocket. That pretty much defeats the purpose, but at least I know the technology works.

I also haven’t used any of the music-related functions on the watch. I don’t listen to music from my iPhone very often these days, so having the watch as a remote control for it is unnecessary, and I don’t own Bluetooth headphones, so I can’t test its onboard music player. I swear by my cheap earbuds, so I cringe at the thought of dropping $100 on a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that probably won’t stay in my ears anyway, or might get lost. Honestly, I do not understand why Apple doesn’t allow you to play music through the watch’s built-in speaker. From what I’ve heard so far, it doesn’t sound that much worse than the iPhone’s speaker, and it would be nice to have a little bit of music along with me when I run without needing headphones. (Actually… it just occurred to me that I could try that with my iPhone, but it’s too hard to hear in my shorts pocket while running outdoors. Plus I want to stop carrying my phone when I run anyway.)

So, I’m not using the Apple Watch for everything I could use it for. But for the things I am using it for: checking the time, weather, baseball scores, and shrinkage of my pathetic retirement account; along with tracking my running and other physical activity and just generally avoiding staring at my iPhone so damn much… it’s perfect. And I even like the color.

The Computer Course #2: Guts and Brains

For a brief introduction to this blog series, start here.

There are two major components to the “stuff” that makes up a computer: any computer, from a 1960s warehouse-sized mainframe, to a Commodore 64 from the 1980s, to the iMac in your school’s computer lab, even to the iPad you read books (or watch YouTube videos) on at night and the iPhone I carry in my pocket.

Those two major components are the hardware — the physical object and the parts inside it — and the software — the sets of instructions that make the hardware do something instead of just sit there on the desk looking expensive.

Today we’ll be taking a high-level, conceptual look at what makes up both the hardware and software of a typical computer system. We’re not looking at specific brands of computers or programming languages, but we’ll be talking about the basic building blocks of hardware and software that just about every type of computer or computer-like device consists of.


What’s inside a computer? What is “the computer”? Many times all of the “insides” of the computer are attached directly to the display — the screen — such as with an iMac or a mobile device like a tablet or smartphone. For laptop computers, the “insides” are mostly under the keyboard. And for a lot of desktop computers, there’s a separate box that either sits on the desk or on the floor that contains all of these important components.

A lot of today’s computers and “computing devices” cannot be opened, or at least should not be opened, because there are no “user serviceable parts” inside. That just means there’s nothing you can really do to fix or upgrade what’s inside, and trying to open up the case just might void your warranty if you break something.

But some computers, especially those desktop units, are designed to be upgraded by the user. Remove a few screws, and you can see all of the “stuff” inside that makes the computer work. The first thing you’ll notice inside any computer is the motherboard a fairly large, thin green board that everything else is attached to. But the motherboard by itself is pretty useless — it’s those things attached to it that actually make the computer work. The motherboard just provides a place for them all to live, and connections that let the components interact. Let’s look at some of those components.

CPU (Central Processing Unit, or Processor)

The CPU is the “brain” of a computer. These days, the CPU is a small, square chip, generally about an inch on a side, that is attached to the motherboard. Often the very small CPU will be covered by a much larger “heat sink” — a piece of heat-conducting metal, which itself is connected to a fan. The CPU gets really busy while the computer is running, and all of the electricity flowing around inside it can generate a tremendous amount of heat.

Heat is bad. At least for CPUs.

By using a heat sink and fan, the CPU can be kept cool, so it can keep doing it’s job, which is making everything inside the computer happen!

Remember last time when we started by talking about binary switches? A CPU is full of them. Billions of little electronic switches all stored inside a tiny chip.

The CPU has an instruction set — in short, the things it can do. The CPU cycles through its set of instructions millions of times per second, turning all of those little switches on and off by adding or removing an electrical charge to each of them. The instructions it uses to determine what to do are handled by the software, which we’ll get to a bit later.

Boot ROM (Read-only Memory) or Firmware

When you first turn on the computer, what happens? Well, if not for the boot ROM (or firmware), nothing would happen. On older computers the boot ROM was a special piece of software permanently written on a chip that was attached to the motherboard. These days the boot ROM process is usually handled by firmware — not quite hardware, not quite software. It’s a program, so it’s software, but it’s semi-permanently stored in a chip on the motherboard. (I say semi-permanently, because it can be updated, unlike a traditional ROM chip.)

The boot ROM contains a very limited set of software that tells the computer how to get things going when it is first turned on, then it hands off those duties to the operating system.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s keep going with the different pieces of hardware.

RAM (Random Access Memory, or simply Memory)

RAM, the memory, is another chip. In most computers, RAM is not permanently soldered onto the motherboard, but instead plugs into a special socket on the motherboard. This makes it really easy for the user to replace old RAM chips with newer ones that can store more data. (A big reason for this is that as technology advances, RAM often gets cheaper much more quickly than the rest of the components in a computer. Being able to upgrade your RAM allows you to keep the same computer longer, but make it more powerful and able to handle newer software!)

A RAM card may look a lot like a smaller version of the motherboard with its own set of chips soldered on, but the RAM chips work a lot differently than the CPU. RAM is used by the CPU as it runs software to store information it’s working with — your file data and even the programs themselves as they run — because RAM is really fast. The CPU assigns a memory address to each piece of data it’s using so it knows where to find it in the RAM.

GPU (Graphics Processing Unit, or Video Card)

Not all computers have a separate GPU; sometimes graphics processing is handled by the CPU. However for computers or devices (like video game consoles) where high-quality graphics and video are important, a dedicated GPU can make a huge difference.

Creating graphics to display on your screen is one of the most complicated things a computer has to do. There is a lot of very complex math involved in drawing on-screen objects, adding light and shading effects, creating smooth motion, etc. Most of this math involves floating point calculations. It’s not important to know a lot about floating point calculations here; basically, it just means working with numbers with a decimal point and an uncertain number of digits. This kind of math can be hard for humans, but it’s especially difficult for computers, since they really like integers (and two integers in particular: 0 and 1)!

By letting the GPU take care of all of that complicated math, the CPU can focus on its general-purpose tasks that make the computer run smoothly.

Networking: Ethernet, WiFi, etc.

In the early days of personal computers, each computer was like an island unto itself: most people’s computers were rarely connected to networks that allowed them to talk to other computers. These days, so much of what we do on computers involves the Internet that we can hardly imagine a non-networked computer.

The two main ways computers connect to networks are by a wire, called an Ethernet connection, or wirelessly, better known as WiFi. In general, Ethernet is faster and more reliable than WiFi, except for one big nuisance: that wire. A device that connects to the network wirelessly is a lot more mobile, so WiFi has become a lot more popular over the past ten years or so.

Storage (Hard Drives and Removable Media)

A computer can do a lot of amazing things while it’s running. But what happens when you turn it off? Well, without something to store data on — something that will keep that data even when the power is off — you’d have to start from scratch every time you turned on the computer: reinstalling all of your software, rewriting all of your files. It wouldn’t be very useful at all!

Computer storage capacity has grown immensely even as the size of storage devices has gotten smaller. There are two basic types of storage: hard drives, and removable media. Early personal computers didn’t have hard drives, and when they did, they were extremely expensive. A hard drive that could only hold 10 MB of data could cost thousands of dollars! (Such a small amount of storage would be completely useless with the requirements of today’s computers and devices.)

By the mid-1980s, most computers came with a hard drive of around 100 MB and also had removable storage in the form of floppy disks that stored 1.44 MB on a small magnetic plate inside a square-ish plastic case 3 1/2 inches long. These days you can easily get a Micro SD card that’s smaller than your fingernail and can store 64 GB of data. That’s as much as over 45 thousand floppy disks.

Early hard drives were like more complicated versions of a floppy disk, with several spinning platters coated in a magnetic substance that could remember all of the ones and zeroes the computer stored data in, even without any power. But these hard drives had a lot of moving parts and could fail. Most computers today still have a hard drive like this, but it’s becoming more and more common to replace them with SSD drives (Solid-State Drive). An SSD fits in the same connection on the motherboard as a regular hard drive, and does the same job for the computer — remembering its data when the power is turned off — but an SSD drive looks a lot more like RAM, and it has no moving parts. Like RAM, it’s also a lot faster than a traditional hard drive, which can have a huge effect on how fast a computer running from an SSD card feels, even if its other components are the same as a computer with a traditional hard drive.

Input Devices: Keyboard, Mouse, Trackpad, Touchscreen

So, your computer has all of these parts that can do incredible things. But how do you interact with it, tell it what to do? That’s where input devices come in. There are four main types of input device on modern computers and computing devices: a keyboard that lets you type words, a mouse or trackpad that controls the cursor moving around on the screen and lets you click to open, close or move windows, and these days often a touchscreen that combines elements of both a keyboard and a mouse while letting you interact directly with objects on the screen with your fingers.

Most input devices are either built directly into the outer casing of the computer (as with a laptop), or are attached by a USB cable or wirelessly using Bluetooth.


How do you see what the computer is doing? In the early days of mainframe computers, the computer would actually have a long strip of paper tape that it would print on. But printing words onto strips of paper is not a very effective way of interacting with a computer, and before long screens took over as the way a user can see what the computer is doing.

Displays have gotten much more powerful over time just like other parts of the computer. Today’s displays can show millions of colors and incredible detail, but as recently as the 1980s many monitors were limited to displaying text, generally in a grid 80 characters wide by 25 characters tall. A vestige of that 80×25 grid lives on today… any time you open the Terminal app on a Mac.


Any device that’s not inside the computer’s case, but connects to it via a wire like USB or wirelessly over WiFi or Bluetooth is called a peripheral. Monitors, keyboards and mice are peripherals, but peripherals also include other things like external hard drives, Internet routers, and printers.


All of the hardware we’ve talked about so far, even the fancy CPU with its “instruction set”, can’t do anything without software. Software programs are ways of combining the CPU’s instruction set — the things it can do — into specific tasks. Think of the instruction set as ingredients. Software is the recipe for combining those ingredients into something delicious… or at least useful.


The very most basic software a computer needs to run is store in the BIOS (Basic Input/Output System) ROM or EFI (Extensible Firmware Interface). This also generally includes a piece of software called the boot loader and it serves one purpose: it tells the computer how to start up. As soon as the computer is powered on, the BIOS fires up, performs some basic tests to make sure everything is working, and then runs the boot loader to tell the CPU where it can find the operating system. Once the CPU takes over and begins loading the operating system, the boot loader’s job is done.

Operating System (OS)

The operating system is the core of the computer. It contains the basic software that allows the CPU to combine its instruction set into groups of useful tasks and lets the different parts of the computer talk to each other to get things done.

The Kernel

The kernel is the heart of the operating system. It handles the most basic tasks of running the CPU.

Device Drivers

Every component of the computer — both internal parts like networking and the hard drive, and external peripherals like the mouse, monitor or printer — has a device driver that gets loaded on top of the kernel and tells the operating system how to make the component work. The operating system generally takes care of this low-level interaction between the components in a way that allows the higher level software not to worry about the specific details. That’s handled through what is often called the hardware abstraction layer.

Hardware Abstraction Layer

On top of the kernel and drivers lives the hardware abstraction layer. It is a part of the operating system that takes all of the specific details about how that computer’s components work — the specific brand and size of hard drive or network interface, for instance — and fits them into a generalized set of rules about how those types of components work. This way, the software that users interact with — or that most programmers write — doesn’t need to include instructions for every possible kind of hard drive or network interface.

Programming Language Interpreters

The instruction set a CPU understands is, generally speaking, not something most humans would understand — even experienced programmers. So programmers almost never write their software directly in machine language, and most modern operating systems wouldn’t even allow that, what with the hardware abstraction layer. So programmers use a variety of languages that are (somewhat) easier for humans to understand, like C++ or Java.

The problem is, with these languages the opposite problem exists: humans can understand them, but the CPU can’t! That’s why an operating system includes interpreters. These are programs that can convert the human-readable programs into machine-readable instructions.

Some programs are compiled. This means that after the programmer writes them, a special compiler is run that permanently converts the program into machine language. This makes them run quickly, but it also means that if the programmer needs to make changes to the program, they need to go back to their source code, make changes, and then recompile the program.

Other programs are interpreted at the time that they’re run by a just-in-time (JIT) compiler. In these cases, the program only exists in its human-readable form until the user goes to run the program. At that moment, the computer runs the interpreter to convert the program into machine language. These programs usually run a bit slower than compiled programs, but they can be easier for less experienced programmers, and even for reasonably confident users, to work with and modify to suit their needs.

Command Line Interface (CLI)

On top of all of the layers of the operating system that run to manage what the computer itself is doing exist the user interfaces. Computers have two main types of user interfaces: the older and more basic is the command line interface. These days you’ll use the command line whenever you run Terminal on a Mac or Command Prompt on Windows, but before the first Mac was introduced in 1984, almost all personal computers only had a command line interface, and users needed to know certain basic commands to be able to do anything with their computers.

The command line lives on today because it is still an efficient way to accomplish certain tasks, and also because, since it requires so much less work from the CPU (and GPU), it can run much faster, and can work well on computers with less powerful components. A lot of servers on the Internet only run a command line interface because the only people who ever sit in front of them and work with them directly are experienced system administrators who are comfortable with the command line. That way all of the computer’s resources can be devoted to responding quickly to requests for web pages or whatever else the server is delivering, instead of drawing a fancy graphical user interface on a screen no one is even looking at. Speaking of which…

Graphical User Interface (GUI)

Most computers these days include a graphical user interface, or GUI, as the main visual representation for users of what the computer is doing, and their way to interact with it. A GUI is bright, colorful and detailed, with icons and windows. This concept was actually invented way back in 1973 but it wasn’t commonly used for personal computers until the Mac in 1984.

Applications (Programs or “Apps”)

On top of all of these pieces of the operating system are the actual applications, also called programs or “apps”, that the user chooses to run and interact with, to do anything from writing a story to watching a video to playing a game to… reading this blog post!

Sleep is now available

We all need more Sleep, right? Now you can download my latest album for free from Bandcamp.

Sleep began as a concept for my 6-year-old daughter. Last November, she asked me to record an album for her to listen to as she fell asleep. The first track I recorded at the time was what became “Rapid Eye Movement,” and she immediately declared it a failure… it was too creepy for her to fall asleep to, she said.

I quickly realized that any album I made about the concept of sleep was going to veer off into dark and mysterious territory not suitable for peacefully lulling a 6-year-old off into dreamland. And maybe that’s the point. Sleep is not just peaceful rest. It’s a dark and strange landscape where our minds confront their deepest fears and desires, where our subconscious comes out to play… or to wreak havoc. Sure, there are also moments of peace and bliss, but sleep is many different things, sometimes all at once. This album seeks to capture the essence of sleep in all its complexity.

After my daughter wrote off the album, I largely did too. Or so I thought. But over a period of months I accumulated a grab bag of musical sketches and partially-complete tracks, composed primarily late at night on my iPad as I lie awake in bed. Then in mid-June, my 9-year-old son drew a surreal picture he called “The Super Weird Face.” It had a strange, dream- (or nightmare-) like quality. Immediately I knew it was the cover art for the album, and it inspired me to collect all of these stray musical ideas I had been working on and turn them into the final collection of 17 tracks that comprise the finished album.

My one sentence summary is this: The album is a sonic journey into, through, and out of the landscape of sleep and dreams.

Please have a listen and let me know what you think! (If you really like it, you can also buy the CD for $8.99 from Kunaki.)

Front cover art

Insert art

Jewel case back tray art

CD print art